Selected Translations

                    La cloche felée

II est amer et doux, pendant les nuits d'hiver,
D'écouter, près du feu qui palpite et qui fume,
Les souvenirs lointains lentement s'élever
Au bruit des carillons qui chantent dans la brume.

Bienheureuse la cloche au gosier vigoureux
Qui, malgré sa vieillesse, alerte et bien portante,
Jette fidèlement son cri religieux,
Ainsi qu'un vieux soldat qui veille sous la tente!

Moi, mon âme est fêlée, et lorsqu'en ses ennuis
Elle veut de ses chants peupler l'air froid des nuits,
II arrive souvent que sa voix affaiblie

Semble le râle épais d'un blessé qu'on oublie
Au bord d'un lac de sang, sous un grand tas de morts
Et qui meurt, sans bouger, dans d'immenses efforts.

                         Charles Baudelaire

               The Cracked Bell

It is both sweet and bitter to remain 
On winter evenings by the burning log, 
And hear forgotten memories rise again 
Upon the chimes that ring out through the fog. 

How fortunate that strong and cheery bell, 
Despite its age, so wakeful and content, 
Who hourly resounds its faithful knell, 
Like some old soldier watching by his tent. 

Me, my soul is cracked, and when it longs 
To fill the dark and bitter sky with songs, 
Its voice is like the faint and rasping sound 

Made by a man upon the battleground, 
Who struggles, by a lake of blood, to rise, 
But pinned beneath a pile of corpses dies. 

                  Translation by Marion Shore 
                  The Formalist 3, 1,  p. 110, 1992



Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare...

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
La donna mia quand’ella altrui saluta,
Ch’ogne lingua deven tremando muta,
E li occhi no l’ardiscon di guardare.

Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,
Benignamente d’umiltà vestuta;
E par che sia una cosa venuta
Da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare.

Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira,
Che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core,
Ch ‘ntender no la può chi no la prova:

E par che de la sua labbia si mova
Un spirito soave pien d’amore,
Che va dicendo a l’anima: Sospira.


My Lady Seems So Fine and Full of Grace...


My lady seems so fine and full of grace
When she greets others, passing on her way,
That trembling tongues can find no words to say,
And eyes, bedazzled, dare not meet her gaze.

Modestly she goes amid the praise,
Serene and sweet, with virtue her array;
And seems a wonder sent here to display
A glimpse of heaven in an earthly place.

Her glance gives such delight as she goes by
That in each heart a sweetness seems to move
Which he who has not felt can never know;

And from her lips there seems the while to flow
A soft and tender spirit full of love,
That travels to the soul and tells it:  Sigh.

                   Translation by Marion Shore 
                  The Formalist 3, 1,  p. 73, 1992



Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten
und sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
und sieh dir andere an, es ist in allen.

Und doch ist einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

               Rainer Maria Rilke



The leaves are falling, as if from afar, 
As if distant gardens were withering in heaven, 
They fall with a soft, negating flight. 

And the heavy earth falls in the night, 
Away from the light of every star. 

We are all falling. Now, as we stand. 
Do you see how this hand falls? It is so with all. 

Yet there is One who cushions the fall, 
Softly, eternally, in His hand. 

              Translation by Marion Shore
              The Formalist 3, 1,  p. 22, 1992

Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse il suono...

Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse il suono
Di quei sospiri ond'io nudriva 'l core
In sul mio primo giovenile errore
Quand'era  in parte altr'uom da quel ch'i' sono,

Del vario stile in chi'io piango e ragiono
Fra le vane speranze e 'l van dolore,
Ove sia chi per prova intenda amore
Spero trovar pietà, non che perdona.

Ma ben veggio or sì come al popol tutto
Favola fui gran tempo, onde sovente
Di me medesmo meco mi vergogno;

E del mio vaneggiar vergogna è 'l frutto,
E 'l pentersi, e 'l  conoscer chiaramente
Che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno.

       Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere, I


You Who Hear Within My Scattered Verse...

You who hear within my scattered verse 
The troubled sighs on which I fed my heart 
In youthful error, now that I in part 
Am someone other than I was at first; 

For all the varied ways I cry and curse 
Amid the empty hope and wasted art, 
I ask that those who suffer by Love’s dart 
May pardon me and pity me my worst. 

But now when I reflect how I became 
A common tale to all, it brings me grief, 
So that I grow ashamed that now it seems 

The fruit of all my wandering is shame, 
And true repentance, and the clear belief 
That what the world adores are fleeting dreams. 

Translation by Marion Shore 

From  For Love of Laura: Poetry of Petrarch (University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville) p. 11 (1987). 


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Selected Literary Translations